NCDOT says the three planned projects will ease traffic congestion and improve safety. But how will they impact landowners in the immediate area and throughout North Carolina?

Currently, Sunset Avenue and Eastern Avenue in Nashville are rather sleepy side streets. But like the rest of North Carolina, this area is growing rapidly, and that growth is expected to continue until at least mid-century.

So, NCDOT plans to extensively renovate this area.

The City of Rocky Mount has long pushed for these upgrades, which have been in the planning stages since at least 2015. “I’m really excited that we were able to accelerate these projects by two or three years,” said State Board of Transportation member Gus Tulloss, who is from Rocky Mount. “The new interchange in particular will be important for promoting economic development in the region.”

What Does NCDOT Plan to Do?

Altogether, the project will cost over $105 million. Bond funds will supplement highway trust funds to facilitate faster completion.

On a related note, the Rock Mount-Nashville project is a design-build project. A single manager oversees engineering, land acquisition, and construction. NCDOT likes this structure because it allows the agency to move faster. But highway engineers usually have little experience when it comes to eminent domain issues.

As mentioned, Sunset and Eastern are mostly two-lane roads. Additionally, a bridge over Interstate 95 almost looks like something out of The Bridges of Madison County. This project expands Sunset and Eastern into four-lane roads with wide shoulders and a large median. And, engineers want to transform the I-95 bridge into a highway interchange with long access ramps. 

Construction should last from the fall of 2020 to the summer of 2023.

How Will This Project Affect Area Landowners?

Right now, a number of homes and businesses front Eastern and Sunset, mostly because the speed limit is low and, when these homes and businesses were built, traffic was light. Now, NCDOT construction will definitely affect these landowners.

There are indirect effects as well. Wider streets, higher speed limits, and increased traffic decrease property values and make it difficult for apartment communities to attract tenants. The state is responsible for these financial losses as well, if it exercises its considerable eminent domain power.

What About Other Nash County Landowners?

Did you notice how aggressively city leaders pushed for this project, even though it means landowners could bear much of the financial cost? A number of years ago, the Supreme Court significantly expanded eminent domain. It’s not limited to vacant lots adjacent to planned roadway expansions. It’s also not limited to dilapidated property that is a health and safety concern.

Generally, the state can seize property it considers under-utilized and turn that property over to a developer.

For example, Nash County could take a vacant downtown building and turn it into a restaurant or other enterprise that produces more revenue. These seizures are especially common in smaller and fast-growing communities like Nashville and Rocky Mount, as these places are often eager to pursue redevelopment projects.

Contact a Raleigh Eminent Domain Attorney

The Constitution’s condemnation clause gives the state broad power to seize property. For a free consultation with an experienced Raleigh eminent domain attorney, contact Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas. The sooner you call us, the sooner we start fighting for you.